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Kalkaska County passes resolution opposing Camp Grayling expansion

Kalkaska County Courthouse
The current Kalkaska County Library. Photo: Laura Herberg

At its July 20 meeting, Kalkaska County Commissioners voted unanimously to oppose the proposed expansion of the National Guard training facility

Kalkaska County does not want Camp Grayling to expand

At its July 20 meeting, Kalkaska County Commissioners voted unanimously to oppose the proposed expansion of the National Guard training facility

The resolution passed by the commissioners claims the expansion does not align with the county’s Master Plan which defines Kalkaska County as a “rural recreation-oriented place filled with pristine rivers, rich forests and open farm land.”

“We respect our military. We appreciate all that they do,” Kalkaska County Commissioner Katina Banko said. “But we're not exactly excited to be that close of neighbors with them when we think there's other alternatives.”

The Michigan National Guard announced in May it wanted to lease additional land from the DNR to use for additional training exercises. The proposed expansion would more than double the current footprint of the training grounds by adding about 162,000 acres.

The lease agreement said the land would remain in DNR ownership and management and would still be open to the public. However, the guard would occasionally close off roads and portions of land for certain training exercises for public safety.

The expansions would add land around Bear Lake, Oliver, Orange, Springfield and other townships in Kalkaska County - with more land proposed in parts of Crawford and Otsego Counties.

So far, the expansion has received opposition from local and state-wide environmental and conservation groups, including the Michigan United Conservation Clubs and the Anglers of the Au Sable.

Kalkaska is the first local government to pass a resolution opposing the expansion.

Read the full resolution below:

“I hope this has an impact,” Banko said. “I hope that our legislatures, our senators or the DNR look into this and help us figure out a resolution that will work for everybody.”

The resolution asks the county clerk to forward a copy to the Counties of the State of Michigan, DNR director Dan Eichinger, state congress and the governor’s office.

Banco said the county commissioners learned about the proposal after press releases had been sent out saying local governments were mostly in support of the expansion. She said officials have since apologized for the miscommunication.

Earlier this month, a public meeting about the expansion was held at Bear Lake Township Hall. The meeting included Camp Grayling Garrison Commander Col. Scott Meyers, Tom Barnes of the DNR, township officials and dozens of mostly frustrated residents.

Questions centered around access, how the land would be used and impacts to the environment, property values and infrastructure.

"The DNR is in the process of reviewing the Camp Grayling lease update proposal and accepting public comment on the issue. DNR Director Dan Eichinger will make a decision later this summer after considering all factors, including concerns expressed by the public," DNR spokesman Ed Golder said. "If the proposal is approved to move forward and meets environmental and other requirements, public access to state lands including forest roads for ORV use would remain. Au Sable and Manistee river access would also remain open with 1,500-foot buffers from military activities. There are no anticipated environmental impacts from the proposal."

The DNR put out an interactive map last month that details the land the National Guard intends to lease. Residents can use the map’s interface to leave comments.

The DNR will be accepting comments throughout the review process which won’t be completed until the end of 2023.

Michael Livingston covers the area around the Straits of Mackinac - including Cheboygan, Charlevoix, Emmet and Otsego counties as a Report for America corps member.